Okay, so how was it... Taktlos is held the 29th time these days, it's long grown to be an institution, presenting the avantgarde of jazz and other related musics. Fire police have allowed them - on very short notice, it seems, since they did minimal five-minute sound checks ahead of each set - to use my favorite stage there, at the Rote Fabrik, the Clubraum, which is smaller than the regular venue for jazz concerts (the Aktionshalle) and hence looks half full, rather than three quarters empty. Anyway, I got there early, met a friend who showed me pictures from last week's Le Mans festival, where he heard plenty of amazing music (wish I'd been there!).
Tony Malaby, then... his quartet is named Paloma Recio and consists of Ben Monder on guitar, Drew Gress on bass and Flin Van Hemmen on drums. Never heard of Van Hemmen before, but he was great, with a lose yet controlled, swinging and fun style that could push the band quite some, if called for! Gress was way too low in the mix, alas, while Monder was often over-bearing, even more so when he started using distortion and other sound pedal effects. I'm afraid I didn't quite get how this group's music worked, though... they all had music stands in front of them but never changed pages (only once did Gress change something towards the end)... the dramaturgy of it lay in the dark to me, anyhow. They started playing rather quietly, until Monder for the first time fell out of his "jazz" style and started getting real loud. He and Malaby played complex lines in unison, while the rhythms kept changing underneath, solos would emerge - some great playing by Malaby, for sure! Wonderful sound, big at the bottom, but still rather slim... thin but beautiful in the high range - and he got pretty intense and wild doing plenty of falsetto stuff as the set unrolled. Monder fit in well mostly, but kept being somewhat overbearing throughout the concert. They reached a climax after some forty minutes of continuous playing, then took a break, but after Malaby announced the band he asked if there was time for one more, and off they went onto an amazingly powerful, exhilarating flight. At the end I was pretty pleased by it all, but it took a while for the band to catch flight and for me to get into this rather complex and coolish sound.
Then break, changing the setup, dragging the baby grand to the center, setting up new mics... and a short sound check (Mateen in orange t-shirt). On it went with Matthew Shipp and Sabir Mateen - first on clarinet, then on tenor, and back to clarinet for the encore. A most powerful set, digging right into the music from the very first tones. All music, so to speak. Mateen has a wonderful tone on clarinet and even more so on tenor, very big, deep, rough. Both of them had a few unacccompanied passages, and Mateen's tenor one was the highlight of the night for me. Shipp was both quick and sparse, both dense and pointed - never heard him live and have been kind of an on and off fan of his... but this concert easily convinced me! At the end, all was said and done, no need for any more music, really! Amazing set!
Third band was a Swiss one called Phall Fatale, featuring two singers (Joy Frempong and Joana Aderi), both also using samplers and electronics, John Edwards and Daniel Sailer on double basses, and drummer Fredy Studer (of OM-fame). Good beats and grooves from the basses (Edwards is wonderful, needless to say), but I found the whole thing pretty boring and the singers not too convincing (and the lyrics pretty ... uhm, uninspired and flat). Anyway, I should have left after Shipp/Mateen anyway, so maybe I'm being somewhat unfair.
Trivia: spotted in the audience: Irène Schweizer and Gerry Hemingway - the later came to chat with Ben Monder and seemed to have a good time.